Judge to Chris Brown: Leaked Rihanna photo irrelevant to assault charge
The leak of a photo showing Rihanna’s bloodied face is not relevant to the assault arrest of her former boyfriend, Chris Brown, a judge said today.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg described the leak of what appears to be a police evidence photo to the gossip site TMZ.com as “not a good thing” and possibly a crime, but she brushed aside suggestions by Brown’s attorney that it impacted evidence to be presented against the R&B singer at a June 22 preliminary hearing.
“I think not,” Schnegg said.
Brown did not attend the hearing. The 19-year-old has pleaded not guilty to assault and criminal threats charges stemming from a Feb. 8 incident in which Rihanna, 21, claimed he beat, punched and bit her as she rode in his rented Lamborghini.
Subsequently, the photo of the pop star, whose real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, appeared online and the L.A. police department opened an investigation to determine whether an employee sold or released the picture. The probe is ongoing.
Brown’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, sought records of the internal investigation and other personnel files in anticipation of cross-examining investigators at the preliminary hearing, but the judge denied that request as premature, saying the law only allows the defense to ask for that information 30 days before trial.
When the lawyer pressed her further, Schnegg told him that if she had to decide right away, she would rule against him.
“Someone went off the ranch,” the judge acknowledged, but the defense request to review records pertaining to 25 officers involved in the case is “merely a fishing expedition.”
The state Supreme Court is currently considering the issue of when in the course of criminal cases defendants are entitled to records concerning police bias and misconduct.
Outside court, Geragos said the judge’s ruling “was not unexpected given the state of the law.”
A lawyer for Rihanna attended the hearing and said later that his client was prepared to testify against Brown at the preliminary hearing.
“She will do what the law requires. There has never been any question about that,” Donald Etra said.
-- Harriet Ryan